Microfluidic-like fabrication of a vanadium-cured bioadhesive by mussels

April 19, 2021

Tobias Priemel (1), Gurveer Palia (1), Frank Förste (2), Franziska Jehle (1,3), Ioanna Mantouvalou (2,4), Paul Zaslansky (4), Luca Bertinetti (3), Matthew J. Harrington (1)
ChemRxiv, April 2021. DOI: 10.26434/chemrxiv.14378681.v1


vanadium; mussel byssus; DOPA catechol; metal coordination; adhesion; biofabrication; self-assembly


To anchor in seashore habitats, mussels fabricate adhesive byssus fibers mechanically reinforced by protein-metal coordination mediated via 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) – providing a well-established role model for bio-inspired design of smart metallopolymers and underwater glues. However, currently, the mechanism by which metal ions are integrated as cross-links during byssus formation is completely unknown. Here, we investigated the byssus formation process, combining traditional and advanced methods to identify how and when metals are incorporated into the material. We discovered that mussels concentrate and store iron and vanadium ions in intracellular metal storage particles (MSPs) complexed with previously unknown catechol-based storage molecules. During thread formation, stockpiled secretory vesicles containing concentrated fluid proteins are mixed with MSPs within a complex microfluidic-like network of interconnected channels where they coalesce forming protein-metal bonds within the nascent byssus. These insights are important for bio-inspired materials design, but also from a biological and chemical perspective – the active accumulation and utilization of vanadium is extremely rare in nature.

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Author Affiliation

(1) Dept. of Chemistry, McGill University, 801 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 0B8, Canada.
(2) Dept. of Optics and Atomic Physics, Technische Universität Berlin, Hardenbergstrasse 36, 10623 Berlin, Germany.
(3) Dept. of Biomaterials, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Am Mühlenberg 1, 14476 Potsdam, Germany.
(4) Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin, Albert-Einstein-Str. 15, 12489 Berlin, Germany.